Are you looking for the best things to do in the Chesapeake Bay Area? You have come to the right place because we have found you some of the best things to do around the bay area. There are places here to visit in both Maryland and Virginia because the bay runs equally through these two southern states.
As one of the most iconic regions in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is a destination that captures the attention of travelers from all around the world. There are quaint fishing villages and charming beach towns with marsh waterways, the Chesapeake Bay is a natural wonderland just waiting to be explored.
So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a solo trip, the Chesapeake Bay promises to deliver a trip like no other.
What is Chesapeake Bay Famous For?
The Chesapeake Bay is famous for a few different things and the natural beauty of the area brings hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. There is a diverse ecosystem in the bay with plenty of seafood that the local economies and diets depend on. The most popular types of seafood are blue crabs and oysters.
What is the Secret Island in the Chesapeake Bay?
The secret island in the Chesapeake Bay is Tanger Island. This island was originally settled by the Scottish in the 1800 and has been a unique and isolated island until more recent years. You can only reach the island by boat or plane, and there are no cars on the island.
You can visit and spend the day in Taginer, exploring their small city and learning a little bit more about the secret island in the Chesapeake.
Is it Safe to Swim in the Chesapeake Bay?
Yes! It is very safe to swim in the Chesapeake Bay, and the popular Chesapeake “Chicks” beach is packed full of beachgoers every summer. But like every body of water, there are potential hazards. You can check the local water quality reports before jumping in, but over the Bay is very safe for swimming.
The 15 Best Things to Do in the Chesapeake Bay Area You Must Visit
Barrier Islands Center
Up first for Chesapeake Bay attractions to visit is the Barrier Island Center. Here you can learn all about the rich history of the Barrier Islands on the Eastern Shore. From the local seafood efforts to the original settlers on the island. There are over 23 different barrier islands in the Chesapeake Bay that all have important ecosystems.
The Barrier Island Visitor Center is in a beautiful restored Victorian-era home on the Machipango, Virginia side area of the Eastern Shore. When visiting you can through different types of interactive exhibits viewing over 7,500 artifacts. There are also tours to books with walks around the surrounding areas with an expert local guide.
Cape Henry Lighthouses
Another stop to make on your Chesapeake Bay sightseeing tour is the Cape Henry Lighthouses in Virginia Beach. These two lighthouses are on the active Fort Story base and are open to the public to see every day. The older red brick lighthouse is the oldest and first lighthouse built in America, dating back to the late 1700s.
When you arrive at Fort Story, your car will be searched and checked out since you are entering a military base. All you need to have is your license and car registration and they will let you in. The two lighthouses have located in the middle of the base. The new one is still in use but, you are allowed to climb the old one for a tour.
There is a small fee to enter, and large steep steps to walk up. But the panoramic views on the top of the hill are so worth the climb. When you are done with the lighthouse you are allowed to go check out the beachfront and base, making it one of the best things to do in the Chesapeake Bay.
Point Lookout State Park
Up next for things to do in the Chesapeake Bay is to visit the famous Point Lookout State Park on the eastern tip of Maryland. This is the area where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Potamic River and covers over 1000 acres of land.
And within that 1000 acres, is over a mile of a sandy shore that brings visitors all year long. You can enjoy sunbathing and swimming in the bay, and it is also a hot spot for crabbers and fishing.
You can also enjoy various hiking and biking trails that wind through the wetlands and park forests. History buffs will also love the historic sites in the park. The most popular is a Civil War prison camp that held over 50,000 soldiers during the war. There is also a lighthouse, fishing pier, and visitors center to explore.
Drive Along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
If you are looking for the best Chesapeake Bay vacation spots you will need to utilize the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. This 23-mile bridge is one of the largest in America and has two underground tunnels with 3 strips of long bridges that connect Virginia Beach to Eastern Shore.
There is a large fishing pier in the center of the CBBT. This makes the perfect pit stop to take photos and view the beautiful bay from a different perspective. If you are lucky you will spot dolphins and cute seabirds, and there are even been reports of whales.
If you are coming from the VB side of the pier, the very last section of the bridge is elevated to allow bigger ships to pass through and it is an incredible, if not a little scary view. It normally takes about 30 minutes to drive across when there is no traffic. You will have to pay a small toll fee when entering, for upkeep.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a one of the kind museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. It is located in St. Micheals Maryland and is on 18 acres of waterfront land.
You can view different exhibits such as historic fishing boats, recovered artifacts, and an actual working boat yard where you will see boat workers fixing and repairing local boats.
Another popular reason people love this Maritime Museum is the Waterfowling building. This has one of the largest collections of decoys in the world. They put on demonstrations of decoy carvings and painting, be sure to check out their website to catch a time. If you are looking for what to do in the Chesapeake Bay, visiting the Maritime Museum would be the perfect stop for you!
Calvert Cliffs State Park
Up next on your Chesapeake Bay itinerary is a visit to the Calvery Cliffs State Park on the western shore in Maryland. There is something for the whole family to love here. Calvery Cliffs have miles of hiking trails that will take you along the beach and back into the marsh sections.
There is also a big sandy shore that is perfect for swimming and relaxing at the beach. You can also enjoy watersports like kayaking and canoeing and the visitor center will rent you anything you need.
On your hikes and beach days at Calver Cliffs keep your eyes peeled for the amazing variety of wildlife around. Bald eagles and beautiful ospreys seem to be hiding behind every corner. And there are also fossils hiding in the sand and along the hiking trails. Calvert Cliffs State Park is one of the best things to do in the Chesapeake Bay area and is a true gem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
There is a rich and interesting history at Fort Monore in Hampton VA. The prime location of where the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay has made Fort Monore a popular place to control. It was first built by the Spanish back in 1577 and passed hands through the British before finally becoming one of Americans’ first bases.
Today Fort Monore is a national and historic landmark that brings new and old visitors every year. It makes for a perfect Chesapeake Bay day trip because there is something for everyone to love.
You can book a private guided tour of the historic buildings or explore the Castemate Museum where there are exhibits and displays from the military history in the area. Or head to the shore for a fun day at the bay. There is plenty of beachfront for everyone to have a spot and miles of nature trails.
Assateague Island National Seashore
One of the best islands to visit in The Chesapeake Bay is the Assateague Island National Seashore. This beautiful barrier island stretches along both the VA and Maryland coastlines.
There is a national park to visit with miles of unspoiled beaches, where you can do all your favorite beachy activities. What brings most people to the island is the running of the wild ponies. This happens once a year without fail on the last Wednesday in July and is one of the best activities in the Chesapeake Bay.
These wild ponies have been on the island for years and originally survived a shipwreck off the shore. They have adapted to the climate and resources on the island and the rest is history. You can see the ponies all year long on Assateague Island as they roam freely, but please keep your distance and never touch the ponies.
Tour the Us Naval Academy
If you are thinking about visiting Annapolis Maryland you have to take a tour of the US Naval Academy. Annapolis is known as the “Sailing Captial of the US” and has a maritime history dating back to the colonial era.
The Academy was opened back in 1845 and is one of the most prestigious military colleges. When touring you can expect it to last about an hour and you will view and learn about the most important landmarks and buildings on campus.
One of the prettiest buildings is the Navan Acadamy Chapel with big stained glass windows. This is the last resting place of the famous Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones. There is much more to see and do, making a trip to the US Naval Academy one of the best things to do in the Chesapeake Bay for adults.
Go Fishing & Crabbing
One of the best Chesapeake Bay activities is to sink a line in the water and try your hand at fishing and crabbing. There are endless varieties of fish and shellfish in the bay, but the most sought-after are the striped bass or stripper and the blue crab. Keep your eye on the right season and the limits, and sizes that you are allowed to keep per species.
A few of the best places to fish and crab are:
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
- Kent Island
- Tangier Sound
- And The Patuxent River
If you are not close to any of these locations in the Chesapeake Bay, don’t worry you can throw your line in the water pretty much anywhere and catch something. Keep in mind that anyone over the age of 16 has to have a valid VA or MD fishing license. They can be purchased online or anywhere that sells fishing supplies.
Visit Chicks Beach
Up next is to visit one of the most popular beach spots on the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Beach, but everyone calls it “Chicks”. It is a great spot to escape the city and relax in the sun.
The water here is relatively calm and starts warming up for swimming in June. Besides the Oceanfront, Chicks Beach is the busiest beach in the area. If you are planning your visit in the summer, you will want to get there before 11 am to find good parking. It is always free to park but be sure you not blocking a driveway, they will tow you.
Besides the beautiful bay, there are also waterfront dining options and one hotel. Visiting Chicks Beach is one of the best and most free things to do in Chesapeake Bay any time of the year.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Museum
Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay has its kind of dog breed? The Chespeake Bay Retreiver! They look almost like a chocolate labradors, but they have thicker, curly fur. They were used as hunting dogs for the waterfowl hunters in the area.
You are going to love learning about this cute and intelligent breed of retriever. The museum is located in St. Micheal, Maryland where the breed was originally born. Some exhibits and displays show the breed’s history, training equipment, and a large collection of vintage photographs.
Visit Cape Charles
Visiting Cape Charles is one of the best Chesapeake Bay day trips to take. This cute and charming town is on the Eastern Shore of VA and still has the cutest small-town vibes.
You can enjoy swimming in the bay or exploring the cute old town. There are walking tours to learn about the history, and the Cape Charles Museum and Welcome Center are worth a stop.
For nighttime activities, there are seafood restaurants with a view of the bay, breweries, and distilleries to visit for a nightcap. You are going to love the small-town charm of Cape Charles, it is one of the top things to do in the Chesapeake Bay at night.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Up next is a visit to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. There are over 28,000 acres of tidal marshes, forests, and untouched land. The area has been preserved since 1933 and is an important migration spot for water birds. Over 250 different species fly there to the refuge every year.
Bring your binoculars to see white ospreys, and if you are lucky a bald eagle will soar by. You can walk along the Wildlife refuge yourself or book a private boat tour. If you are looking for fun things to do in the Chesapeake Bay area outside, you are going to love the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Set up Camp
There are so many campsites along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline. One of the most popular is the Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore. Here they have spots for RVs, tents, as well as cute rustic cabins and yurts to reserve.
You can also camp at Assateague Island. There are natural spots with no resources and a few spots for RVs. You may also like Bayshore Campground in Rock Hall, Maryland, and the beautiful Bethpage Camp Resort in Virginia. They both have beautiful waterfront spots and plenty to do around camp.
Setting up camp at one of these campsites is one of the best things to do in the Chesapeake Bay with kids, and will be a memorable vacation for everyone.